Low Wind Helps Crews Fight to Contain New Brush Fires

Times Staff Writer

Low wind helped firefighters inch toward containing a series of Southern California wildfires ignited by lightning over the weekend.

Though they had to contend with a flurry of more lightning strikes Monday, most of the larger fires were burning in wilderness areas and not threatening any communities.

By Monday evening in Joshua Tree National Park, firefighters had contained about 87% of the Whispering Pines fire, a 993-acre blaze that began Saturday night.

Dennis Cross, an information officer with the fire’s incident management team, said the fire barely moved Monday because of mild wind and sparse vegetation.


About 450 fire personnel were building containment lines around the fire, and officials did not expect the fire to move toward the city of Yucca Valley, three to four miles to the northwest.

Cross said the fire moved rapidly when it began Saturday evening because of erratic wind caused by storm cells overhead, but mild wind Sunday night and Monday helped slow its pace.

“The fire is not being pushed by any wind,” Cross said Monday.

The Whispering Pines fire has destroyed two uninhabited structures and damaged one structure in a tiny community of the same name, generally not populated this time of year. Two firefighters suffered heat-related injuries and another person was injured in a vehicle accident while transporting fire equipment.


Full containment of the Whispering Pines fire is expected by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The steep and inaccessible terrain in the San Bernardino National Forest continued to be a problem for firefighters trying to contain the Heart-Millard fire and the smaller Oak fire.

Officials say the 23,917-acre Heart-Millard fire, which has been burning since July 9 and is 60% contained, could burn for several weeks.

“Aircraft are dropping water in some of the hottest areas because we can’t get people in there,” said Mike Cassidy, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service. “It’s not really moving that much.”


The 190-acre Oak fire, in the San Jacinto Mountains northeast of Red Mountain Lookout, is 50% contained and not threatening any homes, officials said.

On the southern edge of Riverside County, about 275 firefighters continued to beat back the 453-acre Coyote fire, which state fire Capt. Sean Dakin said was in a steep area about a mile from homes in the small community of Anza.

After an attack with four helicopters -- including one on loan from the National Guard -- and two air tankers, Dakin said “forward progress” of the fire had been stopped.

Dakin said firefighters were attacking the blaze mainly from the air and that it was about 30% contained Monday evening.


Officials expect to have the fire controlled by 8 p.m. Wednesday. One firefighter was burned and one suffered heat exhaustion.

Because the flames are on steep hillsides, “our biggest obstacle is getting our crews in Anza-Borrego state park,” Dakin said.

Fire officials have fully contained the 450-acre Ramp fire, which began Saturday night in the Cajon Pass near the junction of Interstate 15 and Highway 138.

In eastern San Diego County, dry, hot wind drove the Horse fire in several directions, covering more than 8,000 acres of forest and scrub in the Cleveland National Forest.


Although no structures were burned, authorities urged evacuation of several hundred homes, most in the Pine Valley area, with the American Red Cross establishing shelters at two schools. More than 500 firefighters fought the blaze, which was expanding in an area south of Interstate 8 and east of Alpine.

The fire was thought to have started early Sunday in rugged Horsethief Canyon.


Times staff writer Tony Perry contributed to this report.